With the help of AFGE members, Rep. Cheri Bustos (IL) and 66 total cosigners of a letter to Social Security Administration Acting Administrator Carolyn Colvin demanding transparency regarding plans for the future of community-based services.
From 2011 to 2014, SSA closed over 70 field offices and 500 contact stations and is mounting an aggressive campaign to drive the public toward filing claims and conducting other SSA business primarily through online-only applications.
Although many field offices have standing room only crowds who want face-to-face service, SSA has repeatedly put resources into expanding its online programs rather than adequately staffing field offices. Field offices are the bedrock of Social Security’s service and the Administration needs to be clear about its ten year vision for offices that help 25 million Americans annually.
Rather than reassure the public that face-to-face service will continue, the agency released its Vision 2025 plan where the of role field offices went virtually unmentioned. It was unclear if the agency even intends to continue providing face-to-face service despite a 2014 report by Public Policy Polling that found that 86 percent of Americans want more or the same number of local field offices in the future.
“Many seniors across the country rely on in-person service at their local Social Security field office for help getting the benefits they have earned after a lifetime of hard work,” said Bustos. “Many don’t have access to the internet or family or friends that can help. That is why we need to protect the services offered at our local offices and make Social Security benefits easier to access for seniors, not more difficult.”
Vision 2025 is another way that the Social Security Administration has been attempting to minimize the role of field offices. In 2014, AFGE succeeded in reversing the Agency’s decision to stop providing benefit verification letters to beneficiaries.